(CNN)Sevilla's love affair with the Europa League continues as the Spanish club beat Inter Milan 3-2 Friday in a thrilling final to win a record-extending sixth title and its fourth in the last seven years.
Sevilla continues Europa League love affair with final victory over Inter Milan
Inter was the favorite coming into Friday's final, played behind closed doors in Cologne, Germany, and Sevilla certainly earned its win the hard way.
Romelu Lukaku, who has found a welcoming home at Inter following a mixed stay at Manchester United, gave his side the lead from the penalty spot inside five minutes.
Sevilla fought back and two first-half goals from Luuk De Jong looked to have swung the final in its favor, but Inter equalized through Diego Godin just two minutes later.
Just when it looked as though Inter was on the brink of finding a winner, defender Diego Carlos acrobatically gave Sevilla the lead late on, thanks to a large deflection off Lukaku's outstretched boot.
It was a performance of grit and determination, interspersed with some brilliant attacking football, that Sevilla had to fight tooth and nail for from the opening whistle.
Dutch referee Danny Makkelie was officiating in his first major European final and to say that the opening 20 minutes were a baptism of fire would be something of an understatement.
Every foul, even the most obvious, drew a swarm of opposition players around him, vehemently protesting his decisions. Any fears that this final would lack intensity due to the empty stands were quickly dispelled.
The small delegation of Sevilla officials, all dressed smartly in suits, were making a fine effort of replicating the missing atmosphere in the vacant stands of the 50,000 capacity RheinEnergieStadion.
Makkelie would have a huge decision to make inside five minutes after Carlos clumsily hauled Lukaku to the ground inside the penalty area.
The referee correctly pointed to the spot to give Carlos a sense of déjà vu -- the Brazilian had conceded penalties in the quarterfinal, semifinal and now the final. Carlos protested his innocence but, in truth, he was fortunate not to be shown a red card as well.
Lukaku stepped up and calmly placed the penalty past goalkeeper Yassine Bounou for his 34th goal of the season, matching the record set by the great Ronaldo Nazario in 1997-98 as the player with the most goals in his debut season at Inter.
Inter thought it should have been awarded a second penalty soon afterward but the officials waved away their appeals, resulting in head coach Antonio Conte being booked for his furious protests.
But Sevilla are the undisputed kings of this competition. The Spanish side has now won the title a record six times, with all of those victories coming in the past 15 years, and there is just something about this trophy that spurs the club to greater heights.
And in the space of 20 minutes, Sevilla had turned the game on its head. Two stunning headers from de Jong -- the first a brilliant stooping effort and the second at the far post -- gave Sevilla the lead.
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui has found redemption at the Andalusian club. The 53-year-old drew the ire of the Spanish Football Federation -- and much of Spain -- when he agreed to become manager of Real Madrid just days before the start of the 2018 World Cup.
He was sacked just two months after his first official game in charge and made the fall guy for the club's poor performances. It would be the best part of a year before he was offered another job, but Sevilla welcomed Lopetegui with open arms and he has more he repaid the faith shown in him.
After guiding the club to fourth in La Liga, he was now less than an hour away from delivering a major European trophy.
But Conte has similarly changed Inter's fortunes in